Swimmers turned into coaches

Ellen Bennett, Staff Writer

High school swimmers are more than swim team members. They are also coaches for the middle school swim team. Shari Walling still remains head coach of the team while the high schoolers can develop a connection with the kids.

“It’s a good time to get more involved and help out the future teams by encouraging them to swim in high school,” junior and coach Alex Clark said.

The experience also helps the team when the middle school swimmers transition to the high school team.

“They aren’t just the freshman, you know who they are already,” Clark said.

Any of the swimmers are welcome to help coach and more is always better.

“There is about one coach per lane,” Clark said. “It’s a one to three ratio instead of a one to 30 ratio.”

Walling said there was a total of 127 kids out for the team among both seventh and eighth grade. With only two adult coaches, help is much appreciated from the high school students.

“I’m very lucky,” Walling said.

The high school coaches volunteer to coach the kids and are excited to help.

“The team is only as good as it is because of its family and friend connections,” Walling said.

Walling has continued the tradition of having the high school students coach all eight years of the Johnston program and several years when she was a part of the Urbandale program. Walling believes that the students are passionate about their sport and coaching is the best way to communicate it with others.

Junior and coach Carter Mehls thinks having high school coaches leads to a more beneficial team due to the more personalized attention each swimmer needs. He also thinks the connection helps build a stronger team.

On some occasions the coaches will all get in the water to swim with their lane.

“When we are in the water it’s easier for us to demonstrate things like how to do a flip turn or how to do a start,” Mehls said.

Eighth grade swimmer Elizabeth Foutch says the coaches pressure you in a good way but also keep things more positive and tell them to strive for their best.

“I’ve learned that we can make a difference at how the kids look at the sport of swimming,” Mehls said.

One goal of the coaching experience is to encourage the middle school swimmers to continue swimming in high school.

“Coaching has also helped me with my stroke because I have a better realization when I see other people do it.” Clark said. The opportunity has also taught Clark how to work with younger kids.

Walling says the experience is helpful to the high school swimmers because they learn to understand their stroke which makes them a better athlete.

“The coaches are easier to connect with because they understand what we are going through,” eighth grade swimmer Megan Schraeger said.

This year’s coaches also were coached in middle school by high school students. 

“I liked having a younger coach who I could relate to more,” Mehls said. “They could help us and give us advice for our high school seasons too.”

The coaches also see a lot a goofing off at practice between the kids.

“When they goof off I make them get out of the water and do push-ups,” Mehls said.

Sometimes when the swimmers are done with their sets, the coaches play some fun games with them.

“If they’re done, I’ll do a little handstand contest and see who wins,” Mehls said.

Though the meets have all concluded and the season is coming to an end, the swim team will remain a family. As Foutch said, she can not wait for the high school season, especially because she is already part of the family.